Risk Factors for Heart Disease

  • Posted on: Mar 4 2022
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What are the main risk factors that lead to developing heart disease?

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, comes in many forms, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), and stroke. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that heart disease accounts for over 17 million deaths worldwide each year and for half of the yearly deaths in the U.S. The most common type, coronary artery disease, is our leading cause of death.

While these statistics are daunting, we have learned a tremendous amount about the causes and risk factors that lead to developing heart disease. Some of them are out of our control, but others involve behavioral or lifestyle choices, which can be changed or modified. One of the most important things we can do to protect our heart health is to be aware of what puts us at increased risk and take whatever steps we can to eliminate or reduce those that affect us. 

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing heart disease that we have no control over include:

Heredity – heart disease is known to run in families, as are many of the risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

Race – some racial groups tend to have a higher risk of heart disease than others. African Americans land on this list due to their high propensity for more severe issues with high blood pressure and Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, as well as African Americans, are particularly susceptible to developing diabetes. 

Gender– until women reach menopause, men are more likely to develop heart disease, but after around age 65, the odds even out.

Increasing age – the walls of the heart tend to thicken with age and become less able to efficiently pump blood.

Risk factors that we do have control over include:

Diabetes – even when blood sugar levels are controlled, diabetics still have an increased risk of heart disease, but when diabetes is not controlled and sugar is allowed to build up in the blood, that risk is far greater. 

High blood pressure – this is the most common risk factor for heart disease. When not controlled, high blood pressure causes the walls of the heart to thicken and become stiffer. This forces the heart muscle to work harder and leads to functioning abnormalities. 

High blood cholesterol – having unhealthy levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) can cause the accumulation of plaque on the walls of the arteries, forcing the heart to work harder to pump the blood where it needs to go.

Obesity and being overweight – carrying too much bodyweight contributes to the worsening of several of the other major risk factors for heart disease; diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. 

Lack of Exercise – physical activity strengthens the heart muscle and aids in maintaining healthy flexibility in the artery walls. It also helps to manage body weight and control blood pressure levels. 

Stress – although still being studied, it is believed that high or sustained stress levels can lead to heart issues. 

Smoking – besides raising blood pressure, smoking increases the heart rate which not only makes the heart work harder, it can actually cause timing irregularities.

Alcohol – even though some studies have reported that moderate amounts of alcohol consumption may actually have some heart benefits, drinking more than that moderate amount can do just the opposite and lead to issues with high blood pressure and a form of the disease in the heart muscle, cardiomyopathy. 

At Cardiovascular Wellness, our mission is to provide outstanding, timely, and personalized care to all of our patients. We are committed to improving your quality of life by designing a comprehensive plan of heart care, individualized to your needs.

Information on locations and office hours for Cardiovascular Wellness can be found by clicking here

Posted in: Heart Disease

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